In an interview with CNN, Alexey Smertin, the head of anti-racism for the Russian football union, who just two years ago denied that racism existed in Russia and said giving bananas to black players was “just for fun,” was asked how racist incidents could damage the World Cup in Russia next year. He said:
“It won’t be. [...] I can guarantee. The people who know me, they know how honest I was on the pitch. Why should I lie?”
He also said that racism and far-right activity during soccer matches in Russia is being “taken seriously” and that he hopes to use the tournament as an opportunity to “educate people in the future.”
He did not directly answer a question about whether he still believes that racism does not exist in Russia, saying that “racism is a global problem.” Then he laughed awkwardly when the interviewer brought up an incident from last month when Russians representing the Cameroonian soccer delegation in a dressed in blackface and carried bananas while marching in a parade ahead of the Confederations Cup.
You can watch the full interview here.